Exploitation, Degradation and Clinical Trials

For at least the past thirty years it has been common practice to pay people to test the safety and toxicity of experimental drugs. The vast majority of research subjects are poor, unemployed racial minorities. The economic aspects of this drug testing regime strike many outsiders as exploitative, much in the way that sweatshop labor is exploitative. But in this talk, I will explore a different, more specific type of exploitation -- namely, one where the exploited party is paid to do something degrading. What exactly is it to be degraded, and is it possible to compensate for degrading work with higher wages?


Carl Elliott is Professor in the Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota and an affiliate faculty member in the Department of Philosophy and the School of Journalism and Mass Communications. He is the recipient of a 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship and a 2018 National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar Award.  Elliott is the author or editor of seven books, including White Coat, Black Hat: Adventures on the Dark Side of Medicine (Beacon, 2010) and Better than Well: American Medicine Meets the American Dream (Norton, 2003). His articles have appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Review of Books, Mother Jones, The New York Times, The American Scholar and The New England Journal of Medicine. He is currently working on a book about whistleblowing in research on human subjects.

Wednesday, June 12 at 4:00pm to 6:00pm

New Research Building
3800 Reservoir Road, N.W., Washington

Recent Activity